Stan DouglasVancouver Art Gallery Stan Douglas

Date and Venue 11 September |Vancity Cinema, Vancouver

Reviewer Kim Alison Fraser

It's a rare and revealing opportunity when art lovers are afforded a glimpse into the mind of an artist. As part of the Vancouver Art Gallery's Art Talks series, Stan Douglas, an internationally acclaimed artist whose mediums include film and photography, shared his creative process and the historical, cultural, political, anthropological and technological influences and events over the last 200 years that inform his work.

Douglas is one of the contemporary art world's most well-known practitioners and has exhibited widely since 1981 - from Stuttgart to the Guggenheim, Tate, Art Gallery of Ontario, Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland and the De Pont Foundation for Contemporary Art in the Netherlands.

Themes of the failed utopia, obsolete social structures and outdated technologies permeate Douglas' work. His 2005 film "Inconsolable Memories" employs the use of 16mm film, photos of Havana, and a film looping technique to highlight the demise of the utopian promise of the Cuban revolution, the Cuban missile crisis, and the Mariel boat lift - all with aesthetic references to the Cuban film, "Memorias del subdesarrollo".

His recent exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery featured a silent film shot in 1992, "Pursuit, Fear, Catastrophe: Ruskin, B.C."; and the film and photography installation, "Klatsassin" based on an 1864 First Nations uprising during the gold rush. The film, shot in black & white is the non-linear telling of an incident from several different viewpoints, and echoes Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film "Rashomon". Photographs from Cariboo and Chilcotin where "Klatsassin" was shot, the film's main characters, and a reproduction of the Daily Chronicle dated Sunday Morning, May 29, 1864 rounded out the compelling work.

Douglas's most anticipated work is "Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971" which depicts the Gastown Riots. The 30 foot by 50 foot photographic mural on glass will be housed in the atrium of the new Woodward's Building redevelopment. Cinematic staging, digital composition, actors of all ages, clothing, police uniforms, vehicles, signage, newspapers, light posts, store window displays, storefronts and buildings were all recreated with exacting detail on a site near the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) to represent the controversial social cultural phenomena that led to the riot that defines an area of Vancouver about to undergo profound change through gentrification.

Stan Douglas's exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery closed on September 13, 2009.

© 2009 Kim Alison Fraser